Game of Thrones: Were Cersei’s choices worth it in the end?


Cersei Lannister has made a lot of questionable decisions over the course of Game of Thrones, but her decision-making days came to an end during this week’s episode. Were her choices worth dying for in the end?

Cersei Lannister has been an iconic part of Game of Thrones since its beginning, and she managed to maintain a hold on the throne for nearly all eight seasons of the series. During the show’s earlier days, Cersei’s power was mainly confined to her ability to manipulate those sitting on the Iron Throne—whether it was her husband or one of her sons. Of course, it wasn’t easy keeping a handle on the likes of Robert Baratheon or Joffrey. And Tommen proved too impressionable, to the point of allowing his own mother and his betrothed to be imprisoned by the High Sparrow.

When Cersei realized how brittle this sort of power is, she chose to take control herself—even if it meant crossing a moral line on her part. Her decision to blow up the Sept of Baelor marks a turning point in her journey. It’s the moment she destroys the people holding her back, taking her fate into her own hands instead of placing it in the hands of others. And while she can never be accused of wanting her children dead, Tommen’s demise gave her the freedom to do what she’d always wanted: to take the Iron Throne for herself.

And since this turning point, Cersei hasn’t hesitated to do whatever is necessary to maintain her seat of power. She’s killed innocents, bribed sellswords, and even resorted to sleeping with Euron Greyjoy. (We’ll leave you to decide which of these is the worst offense.)

(L to R)Pilou Asbæk as Euron Greyjoy and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister-Photo:Helen Sloan-HBO

Cersei’s decision to kill Missandei during “The Last of the Starks,” however, was the final nail in her coffin. Cersei has been daring her victims to do something about her cruelty since the very beginning, and Daenerys finally did. It doesn’t seem Cersei saw that turn of events coming.

So, in hindsight, were Cersei’s decisions throughout Game of Thrones worth it? No, the more recent ones probably weren’t. Cersei’s final moments, which showcase a vulnerability we haven’t witnessed from her since the earlier seasons of the show, make that very clear. “I don’t want to die,” she cries to Jaime, one of the last things she says before the Red Keep buries both of them. And if Cersei had forfeited the throne a few episodes sooner, she might not have had to.

In fact, if Cersei had accepted the odds when Daenerys first declared war against her, she might have even known some semblance of happiness. It’s understandable why she refused to return to Casterly Rock when it was her father or the Tyrells calling the shots. Cersei didn’t want to find herself sold off to another husband, resigned to doing whatever it is the ladies of Westeros do on their free time. She reached for power so that she could make her own choices.

(L to R) Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister. Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO

And even Cersei’s choice to destroy the Sept of Baelor made sense at the time, too. While her youngest son might still be alive if she hadn’t gone that route, she also could very well have faced execution at the hands of the High Sparrow. Again, as ruthless as the decision was, it was Cersei’s way of staking a claim over her own fate. She refused to let her future be determined by someone else, so she did something about it.

Sadly, Cersei didn’t know when to quit. She should never have held her ground against the Targaryen queen, an enemy who could have easily burned her city to the ground at any point over the past few seasons. Cersei might have predicted Tyrion’s pleas for peace, but she underestimated Daenerys, and it got her killed.

Going back even further, if Cersei had kept to her vow to fight the army of the dead and later surrendered to Dany, she might have even been able to live out the rest of her life with Jaime—even if it was in exile. She wouldn’t have kept the throne, but she would have finally known the freedom she always craved. And wasn’t that what her constant grappling for power was about in the first place?

Still, it’s just not in Cersei’s character to surrender. She’s schemed her way out of every other situation the series has thrown at her. Unfortunately, there’s no amount of cleverness that can hold its ground against dragon fire—or a building falling on top of you. Maybe if she’d gotten her elephants…

Related Story. Game of Thrones: The best quotes from "The Bells". light

Game of Thrones airs its series finale Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.